July 9, 2000

Waqar Younis and Azhar Mahmood reprimanded for 'altering the condition of the ball'

Pakistan's preparation for their crucial triangular match against Sri Lanka at Premadasa International Stadium in Colombo today, was disrupted this morning by the news that Waqar Younis and Azhar Mahmood have been reprimanded by John Reid, who is the ICC match referee in this Singer Triangular Series, for altering the condition of the ball in yesterdays game versus South Africa.

A press release from the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) announced that both Waqar Younis and Azhar Mahmood had breached the ICC Code of Conduct (Rule 1 and 2) and the Laws of Cricket (Rule 42.4) by "altering the condition of the ball."

Waqar Younis has been fined 50% of his match fee and given a one-match suspension, Azhar Mahmood was fined 30% of his match fee and Moin Khan was severely reprimanded for "allowing the spirit of the game to be impaired."

John Reid considered the incident "very serious," especially in light of the fact that he had personally warned Waqar Younis and the Pakistan team management, during the third test match of the recently concluded test series against Sri Lanka. The fact that Waqar had already been warned explains why he has been punished most severely.

In fact Waqar has the dubious distinction of becoming the first person to have ever been suspended by the ICC for "altering the condition of the ball" or "ball tampering" as it is commonly known.

John Reid's attention was brought to the matter not by the umpires, who were Asoka De Silva and Peter Manuel, but by pictures from Sony Entertainment Television. The cameras focused in on both players in the period just after the ball had been changed in the 35th over. Waqar could clearly be seen scratching the surface of the ball.

In the Kandy test match, the umpires, Steve Bucknor and Peter Manuel, had shown John Reid the ball after similar pictures from the television. On this occasion the Waqar was seen not just scratching the surface of the ball, but actually lifting the quarter seam. Both he and Wasim Akram subsequently managed to reverse swing the ball a great deal, although to no avail as Marvan Attapattu and Sanath Jayasuriya compiled a record breaking opening partnership.

Other famous ball tampering incidents include the admission of Chris Pringle on New Zealand's 1990 tour of Pakistan that he had tampered with the ball during the Faislabad test match, a game in which he picked up 11 wickets.

Michael Atherton nearly resigned after the infamous "dirt in the pocket" affair in the Lord's test against South Africa in 1995. He was reprimanded by match referee, Peter Burge, for rubbing dirt on to the ball. Although he maintained at the time that he was just innocently drying his hands and he commonly keep dirt in his pocket, the television pictures clearly showed him sprinkling dirt onto the ball.

However it was Pakistan's tour of England in 1992 that really fuelled the ball tampering controversy, a controversy that has rumbled beneath the surface ever since, but has never been adequately addressed by the ICC. In that series the English media accused Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram of tampering with the ball, an accusation that was given credence by the suspicious replacement of the ball during the one of the ODI's at the end of the tour.

Proposed solutions to the ball tampering issue range from its decriminalisation, a position adopted by Sir Richard Hadlee amongst others, to stringent penalties and bans. The pervading reality of course has been widespread inertia amongst the cricketing powers that be. That was inertia was partially, and thankfully, ended today.